Well, folks, here it is: 45 votes for “Echoes of Forgotten Voices” and 75 votes for “Whispers of Forgotten Voices.” That’s a pretty clear statement. Personally, I leaned a little more toward “Echoes” and, at heart, I loved the original, “A Haunting Reverence.” But this is vox populi.
If you read the comments, there were cogent arguments in all directions. As an author, I was whipsawed in all directions, and still am. But, here’s the truth: Titles do matter, and what you want to work — what you think will work — is not always what works. The audience is all, and there are those who will follow you anywhere and those who need to be brought into the fold.
The book, as A Haunting Reverence, failed twice in the market place. Once for New World Library, a “new spirituality” publisher, and once for The University of Minnesota, an academic and strong regional publisher. Was that failure due to the title? The subtitle? Was it due to marketing? Was it due to the time and the season? Who can know? I do know that when I toured it in Chicago, people came to hear me because they thought it was a ghost story or some sort of spiritualist fable. They went home confused and disappointed.
An author does not want this to happen. New World Library killed a wonderful book of mine on forgiveness, partly by titling it Calm Surrender, after, of all things, some song in the Lion King! My take on forgiveness had nothing to do with surrender and that was a stupid title. Yet committees, whether editorial or marketing or anything else, whip themselves into a frenzy and end up with misguided groupthink as often as they end up with the insightful fruits of collective thinking. They rely on their experience and do not do market research.
HarperSanFrancisco did my book on travels down the west coast no service when it named it Road Angels. The better minds there thought it referenced Kerouac’s road autobiography, Desolation Angels. The marketplace thought it was about angels as spiritual beings or motorcycle gangs. And where to shelve it? Travel? Biography? It was an orphan from the moment it was named. Bad call, Harper.
I could go on and on, just from my own experience. The subtitle to Letters to My Son and the gender-specificity of the title itself; the waffling on the title of Hidden Beauty of Everyday Life and its unsuccessful renaming as Ordinary Sacred. Then there are the rousing successes like Neither Wolf nor Dog and The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo. Is The Wolf at Twilight the red-headed stepchild of the trilogy because of its title, despite it being the strongest of the three in some ways?
These are the questions you face with a title, and the gambles you take. I might think I’m the smartest guy in the room on the title and stay with A Haunting Reverence. But I’ve had good books done in by marketing folks who thought they were the smartest guys in the room. And, truth be told, they were very, very smart. But not in those particular instances.
So, I’m keeping my powder dry until I hear a few new responses to this information. But, for now, it looks like you, my good readers who cared enough to vote on this, have given the book its new name, The Whisper of Forgotten Voices: Listening to the Lessons of the Land. Or, Whispers of Forgotten Voices. Or, or. . .
You see how it is.